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Ask the expert: 5 things to know about medical social workers

Group of female social workers

By: Cady Chese, lead social worker at Rapides Regional Medical Center

I have always been interested in mental health, and from the time I was in middle school, I wanted to be a counselor. I was almost finished with my bachelor’s degree in psychology when one of my teachers spoke with me about pursuing a career in social work. He explained that I would still be able to do counseling if that is what I wanted to do, but so many other opportunities would be available as well.

He said social workers had job security with most hospitals having social workers on staff. While I had no interest in working at a hospital, after looking more into master’s programs for social work, I decided it was something I wanted to pursue. After graduating with my degree in social work, I started working at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria, La. It’s funny how things work out!

Many people do not have a clear understanding of what social workers do. In their defense, social workers do a lot! For National Professional Social Work month, I wanted to share a few things about social workers in general, as well as some of the areas specific to medical social work at Rapides Regional.

  1. Social workers handle a variety of tasks including: counseling, advocacy, policy, grant writing, and what people always assume we do, child protection. At the hospital level, we focus on discharge needs and connecting patients to resources. We also provide social support to patients and families as they experience a trauma or difficult illness.
  2. Many people are often surprised to learn the social workers at Rapides Regional Medical Center have master’s degrees. During our education, we gained knowledge on the different areas of social work and went through internships in a variety of settings. This education helped prepare us for our current roles where we work with patients across the life cycle, from newborns to the elderly.
  3. We have gotten very good at multi-tasking. For example, one could be working on getting a patient transferred to a rehab facility and then get a call about another patient ready for discharge that needs oxygen. We have to switch gears. No two days are ever the same, particularly when we’re on-call. We never know what kind of calls we will receive. It can be both stressful and empowering.
  4. We often have to be the bearer of bad news to patients who are already going through a difficult situation. It hurts us to have to tell patients or families their insurance refuses to cover the level of care they need. It’s also painful to have to make a report to Department of Children and Family Services when there is a case of child abuse.
  5. We are social workers because we want to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives. Sometimes that means helping a patient to a nursing home closer to their family, providing them with resources to be able to provide medications, or just talking with them as they sit alone and scared in their hospital room. One of the first Level 1 traumas I responded to involved a young man who had attempted suicide. I remember talking with his younger brother and helping him process what had just occurred. When this family looks back on the night of this awful event, they may have no recollection of a social worker even being present – and that’s OK. I did my job and I hope I was able to provide some comfort to them at the time. To me, social work is about the little things that make a big impact on the lives of our patients and their loved ones.

Rapides Regional Medical Center, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare, has seven full-time social workers, one part-time and one PRN (as needed).

Woman wearing pink top and ID badge

Cady Chese serves as the lead social worker at Rapides Regional Medical Center.

We’re proud to recognize National Social Work Month and honor the unique contributions of social workers across our organization. Visit here for more information about social work careers at HCA Healthcare.

HCA Healthcare 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA Healthcare celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA Healthcare’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 186 hospitals and more than 2,000 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our approximately 275,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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